Volunteer policy with SWFL schools

Warren Wright

Photo: Video by fox4now.com

Volunteer policy with SWFL schools

CREATED Sep. 18, 2013

FORT MYERS, Fla.- Shay Pearson could soon learn whether she will be out of a job.  

Pearson is on administrative leave from her job as a teacher at Oasis Middle School because she let a convicted felon help her with a fundraiser -- without getting permission from her principal.  
 
But did Pearson really break the rules?  
 
Shay Pearson didn't think there was a problem when she let a friend of friend, Justin Marecz help with passing out flyers for a parent teacher organization fundraiser.  
 
Marecz then asked to have his volunteer hours documented for a traffic violation. 
 
The only problem?  
 
Someone tipped off the school that Marecz is a felon.
 
Superintendent Angela Pruitt believes Pearson failed to comply with the rules by not having Marecz apply for a background check before he volunteered.
 
Dr. Pruitt added that every volunteer applicant goes through a background check with the Cape Coral police department thats provided free of charge.
 
Also.. the volunteer must meet the requirements of the Jessica Lunsford Act -- meaning they can't have convictions from a list of 48-different crimes.
 
Any other type of felony is subject to Pruitt's discretion.
 
As for Pearson's investigation -- an outside law firm is looking into whether she broke the rules.
 
But for Shay... she feels like she's already lost everything.
 
Doctor Pruitt  is expecting the investigation to be completed by Friday. 
 
She said she will go over the findings with the public afterwards.  
 
But how are  other school districts handling volunteers.  
 
Charlotte County has more than 16,000 students in its system.  
 
Only vendors and school district employees go through what's called a level two background check... thats where the sheriffs office goes through a vetting process including fingerprints.
 
School spokesman Mike Riley says "it would just be impossible for everyone that came to this school to run a background check on everybody that came to this school."
 
But all volunteers are always under the supervision of a teacher or an administrator.
 
Thats level one.
 
Also... each volunteer is required to fill out this form, which does ask them about committing sexual felonies.
 
And the district uses one final layer of protection.
 
Its called "the raptor".
 
Riley points out that "everyone that walks into this school has to present a drivers licenses and if they are a sexual predator or offender... thats notified."
 
The driver's license is scanned, and runs through a sexual predator list.  
 
A silent alarm alerts the principal when a violator is discovered. 
 
And finally, there is the discretion of the leadership.
 
Riley says "the superintendent and the principal has a right , if they're suspect of the person, they have a right to deny them entrance to the school."
 
The Lee County School District has a policy in place dealing with volunteers that is similar to Charlotte County.  
 
Warren Wright

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